Gracefully and mercilessly, Leicester hardened its top four credentials and sank West Brom deeper into the bottom three. This was a powerful way of debunking suggestions that Brendan Rodgers’ team might fade again when the season draws to a close. They ran forward in the first half thanks to goals from Jamie Vardy, Jonny Evans and Kelechi Iheanacho and never seemed to be caught by the side of Sam Allardyce, for whom relegation looms more and more.
West Brom is nine points behind 17th Burnley with six games remaining and a terrible goal difference, which Leicester enjoyed getting worse. Rodgers’ team is four points above fifth, and while that’s not a chubby mattress, they played here with a carefree threat.
West Brom came after two consecutive victories, while Leicester had lost their last two league games, but Rodgers’ side lashed out at the visitors as men strengthened by Sunday’s victory in the FA Cup semi-final.
They also received a boost from the inclusion of James Maddison in the starting lineup for the first time since February and, of course, again deployed a strike partnership that has given them new power in recent months.
However, Conor Townsend did not appear to realize the threat Iheanacho posed in the third minute, allowing the Nigerian to dispossess him inside his own half and run towards goal. Fortunately for the defender, Iheanacho’s recent safety in front of goal abandoned him and Sam Johnstone forced him to deflect before the goalkeeper blocked his shot. Maddison then made a follow-up effort on the bar from the edge of the box.
It was a shoddy finish, but Mbaye Diagne was guilty of something much worse a minute later. After Wesley Fofana missed a Matt Phillips cross, Matheus Pereira presented Diagne with a free throw from seven yards. He breathed in fresh air.
It took an old master to show how to finish. But before that, it took a wonderful young creator to open up the visiting defense, as Youri Tielemans smashed an immaculate ball from deep inside. Timothy Castagne ran towards him from the right and slid him towards Vardy, who was free in center and struck from the edge of the area, using his body movement to trick the goalkeeper into throwing him the wrong way.
Three minutes later, Leicester inflicted more damage thanks to another combination between Tielemans and a trusted veteran. The Belgian hit a corner kick and, after a deflection by Phillips at the near post, Evans finished off a powerful header into the net.
West Brom’s defense was dissolving and Leicester was bubbling with confidence and skill. Castagne came close to making it 3-0 before half an hour after he was allowed to zoom right and into the shooting range. His low fierce effort shot off the post. Maddison then stung Johnstone’s hands from long range before Pereira warned Leicester against presumption by rounding a corner against the crossbar.
No such warning was needed: Leicester was eager to conquer and soon scored again. Iheanacho claimed his 13th goal in his last 13 games thanks to a more graceful serve from Vardy, who flew down the left before picking his teammate, who swept the ball into the net with the help of a Townsend nick.
Iheanacho should have scored again before the break, but he threw a shot from 10 yards.
Allardyce replaced Callum Robinson with Semi Ajayi at halftime, but the change made no difference. Leicester continued to be sharper, stronger, more skilled and agile. One class above. West Brom needed to respond quickly, but could barely catch the ball, let alone pass it with the dynamism of Leicester.
Rodgers’ only complaint could be that his team could have scored more. Vardy, who had scored just once this year before this game despite playing consistently well, saw an opportunity to throw Johnstone from 50 yards but sent his shot wide. Later the goalkeeper lunged to his left to deflect a free kick from Iheanacho.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism